Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Getting Jesus

In preparation for this weeks Sermon on John 3:1-17 I am amazed on how much I see Nicodemuses all around me (or would that be Nicodemi). Nicodemus is attempting to ‘get' Jesus. He is a Pharisee, so he is an educated man and must have some sort of intelligence. Yet a little intelligence can be a scary thing. Intelligence is scary sometimes because we (note I’m including myself in this) think too much. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night hoping to figure him out. He is trying to grasp who this Man of God is. What he doesn’t realize is that he is God.

There are many people that do not follow Christ because they cannot ‘get’ him. For intellectuals things need to make sense. There needs to be order, a thought process, a hypothesis which leads to a conclusion. If Jesus would simply lie out an organized train of thought that any person with a college degree (or MDiv) could follow then it would be easy to ‘get’ him. Intellectuals like order. We understand gravity because it is a hypothesis that we can test and come to a conclusion. You don’t need a kindergarten education to understand that if you jump off your roof gravity will take over and you will fall. Jesus doesn’t do this.

Jesus can tell that Nicodemus has come to ‘get’ him and that is why he goes down the philosophical and theology road he does. Nicodemus doesn’t even get a chance to ask a question, he simply makes a statement that Jesus has the presence of God in him. It almost seems like Jesus interrupts him with “Very truly I tell you…born from above.” Nicodemus thinks literal and asks “can on enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Now how intelligent is that question? Really, Nic, you need to think beyond the literal sometimes when Jesus speaks. This is the thought that pops into my head but I ignore the log in my eye when I do this.

There are many times in my walk where I have asked the stupidest questions. I wondered where dinosaurs are in the Bible? God did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? God, did you really think ministry is the place for me? Are you sure this whole resurrection thing is true, I mean come on, raised from the dead? God, I hate speaking in front of people, why and how can I say anything important about you? You see I’m trying to ‘get’ Jesus here. I’m trying to put Jesus in a box in order for me to understand so I can then follow. When I do this though I hear these words come for Christ, “Very truly I tell you…”

For those of us who use that thing on our shoulders (and not all people do) we think we can think into faith. Yet faith and following Christ sometimes demands that we pull away from our intellectual abilities and learn to accept a God who is larger than our gray matter. Should we simply stop thinking and join in as zombies following Christ? No, we don’t need to check our brains at the door, but we do need to understand that we won’t always understand. We won’t always ‘get’ Jesus. God is an infinite God and we are limited by our finite brains to understand and describe such a God. If we could ‘get’ God then I don’t think that God would be worth following.


Rich H said...

Nice, thoughtful post. I haven't thought about Nicodemus this way.

It's true that many of us want to think our way into faith. I know that it took me a while to realize that believing I can fully understand God is hugely arrogant.

Jeff Trexler said...

Important theological point aside, "zombies following Jesus" is a movie I would pay to see!